The US State Department on Friday announced that it is pulling all non-essential staff and their families out of its embassy in Cuba following reports of a secret weapon being deployed against employees there.
In a communiqué, the department said that the embassy would be reduced to an emergency skeleton staff until future notice. It will restaff the embassy only after it receives assurances from the Cuban government guaranteeing the safety of its employees.
"In conjunction with the ordered departure of our diplomatic personnel, the Department has issued a Travel Warning advising US citizens to avoid travel to Cuba and informing them of our decision to draw down our diplomatic staff," said Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.
"We have no reports that private US citizens have been affected, but the attacks are known to have occurred in US diplomatic residences and hotels frequented by US citizens. The Department does not have definitive answers on the cause or source of the attacks and is unable to recommend a means to mitigate exposure."
For months now, rumors have been swirling about a secret acoustic weapon being deployed against US and Canadian embassies in Cuba. Staff reported ear complaints, hearing loss, dizziness, headache, fatigue, cognitive issues, and difficulty sleeping. Twenty-one staff members based both at the embassy and at a nearby hotel have reported health issues in the past year that are believed to stem from the attacks.
The Cuban government has repeatedly denied that it has anything to do with the issue, and has asked the US to send in the FBI to investigate. So far the US has not taken them up on the offer.
In a press conference following the announcement, state department officials said that they hadn't ruled out the possibility that a third party is carrying out the attacks. However, they insist that it is the responsibility of the Cuban government to find and stop the attackers. ®